I’m of the conviction that life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I read many books for this blog, for example, which I end up ditching after 80 or so pages. I try to give all books a fair chance and read at least 50 pages, preferably a bit more, before I put the book, guilt free, to the side. It has happened to me that a book all of a sudden picks up after a while and turns out to be excellent. I don’t want to miss those.
Some books are harder to give up, because they are books you somehow ‘should have read’. I’m not sure if I agree with the ‘should have read’ as much as ‘should have tried to read’. Anyway, on top of that list thrones Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I tried last summer and got about 400 pages in (out of 1300 pages). It’s not a bad book, of course, it just became a question for me whether it was good enough to spend the better part of four weeks to finish it. In the end I decided not – not for me, anyway.
Another book on my list is Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Mantel made a brave choice by not distinguishing between the various Thomases in the story (Thomas Cromwell, Thomas More, Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cranmer) by their last names, rendering it utterly confusing. 674 pages of Thomases proved too much for both my bookclub and myself. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones. In book two, Bring Up the Bodies, Mantel wised up and used their last names.
Don DeLillo’s modern American classic Underworld starts with an endless description of a baseball game. I know it is the metaphor for all kinds of things about American society, but it left me numb with boredom. The question I was left with was: do you need to be 1) interested in baseball or 2) American or preferably both, to enjoy this book? Would love to hear from anyone who’s neither 1) nor 2) and who still liked it.
There are many, many more, of course, but I’m not going to bore you with them all here. Suffice to say that there seem to be a common theme for the books that I never finish. They are long. Perhaps the discipline required to write a short book helps the quality of the book? If so, perhaps the opposite is true of long books.
Which books did you never finish? Would love to hear from you! (you can let me know in the comment field below, or on Twitter, FB or Instagram).